I try to do something more 80s than the 80s. It is an intentional cliché, both a tribute and self-aware of the fantasy it represents.
The vibrant work of French artist Verceighty exudes a visceral nostalgia for the aesthetics of the 80s and 90s. Fascinated with the period's optimism, pop culture, and, above all, its music, his work has become closely intertwined with the Synthwave movement. By combining the exuberant color palette of the era with rudimentary shapes and abstract graphic design, he reveals an evocative world – the imagined utopia of a bygone time. In doing so, the artist aims to touch upon the viewer’s most personal memories and emotions.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. When you speak of a longing for a time you never experienced in relation to the 80s and 90s, the first question that comes to mind is: how old are you?
A. I am 28 years old; I was born right in the
French Krach of 92-93. The official end of the 1980s abundance.
Q. What initiated your fascination with this period in recent history? Was there a specific moment you can pinpoint or a specific thing that piqued your interest?
A. It was a video game and its music that started it all. I never knew much about the 1980s, until I played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City at a friend’s place, and I was instantly fascinated by the game and its general atmosphere. So, I had to have it for myself and started to download the tracks from the playlist. A bit later, I also got into Scarface and its soundtrack by Moroder. All of this really helped me dig into the visual aesthetics and sound of New Wave: the original soundtracks and tunes of the 80s that no one around me was listening to at that time.
Q. At what point did you start to call yourself an artist?
A. I studied applied arts and subsequently worked as an art director in advertising for approximately 4 years, but I never wanted to be an artist. I was passionate about advertising and creativity, but too shy to express this whole retro universe I had within me. Then, the agency life caused a sort of mental breakdown and I felt that all of these pictures and designs I had in my head needed to get out and find some form of physical support. I grabbed some acrylic paint and brushes that were left over from my studies, and one day, there were a couple of finished paintings in my room, and I found myself to be an artist.
Q. Could you tell us a bit about Synthwave and how music has had an impact on your work?
A. Right, when I was digging into New Wave and original soundtracks from movies of the 1980s, I came across some French artists who were creating a new sound that immediately overwhelmed me. Later, this musical genre became Synthwave. I started to listen to all the Synthwave I could find: College and the Valerie collective and, above all, Kavinsky, whom I became obsessed to. For me, it is the most nostalgic and sensitive music out there, produced by different minds from around the world that I somehow feel a real connection with. It is like a collective fantasy about a much more desirable and ‘warm’ era. My talent, however, lies in the visual and I wanted to contribute something of my own to this emerging community. So, I let myself process these nostalgic feelings through painting.
Q. Could you describe your artistic process from initial idea to finished artwork?
A. I try to focus on a feeling that I get from a sound, a New Wave track, or a scene from an old movie. I then start to hand-draw rough sketches, bringing some of these elements together. I also try out many brushstrokes with black ink, I then choose one to ten of them and add them to the sketch until I get a good composition. Then, I scan the sketches and brushstrokes and perfect the position of the elements in Photoshop. I spend a long, long time defining the colors and gradients that I use. When I am done with the mock-up, I project the composition onto a canvas and paint it with brushes and acrylic paint. My gradients I do by hand.
Q. Your process seems to be a back and forth between the analog and the digital, is this exchange essential for your work?
A. Of course, I want the viewer to feel this mix of
digital and manual work, geometry, and impulsiveness. I want my work to recall
the archaic computer art of the 1990s that was used in industrial and textile
design, with its fixed brushstrokes, gradients, and simple geometric shapes. I
enjoy the end result of these digital compositions made by hand; I find it to
be surprising and exciting.
Q. Though your work mostly consists of abstract, geometric forms, there seems to be a narrative component as well. How important is storytelling to you?
A. I want to tell my audience “If this everyday world doesn’t suit you, come back to the 1980s with me”. To transport them to a particular place, I like to dedicate each of my work to one of my many 1980s obsessions: a movie scene, a song, a physical place, or a real historic event. It is also a way for me to record all of my passions and references before I forget them. For me, it is always a matter of visceral nostalgia.
Q. Do you find inspiration in current times, in your own daily life, as well, or is it rather a matter of digging into the past?
A. I find some inspiration in current times but only within the Retrowave community, Retrowave music and designers. Most of the time though, I prefer to be inspired by authentic vintage content: 80s artists, old music videos, magazines, new wave songs… I don’t want my work to feel like today.
Q. One of your pieces, you described as fan art for the video game Grand Theft Auto. Could you tell us a bit more about this piece?
A. As I said, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is where this whole 80s obsession started for me. The painting you mentioned is the very first one I painted; it’s a tribute to the video game. The painting is a real version of a giant abstract painting in the Ocean View Hotel lobby, the starting point of the character you play in the game: Tommy Vercetti. This character also later inspired my artist’s name. I just thought it was funny to give a 3 meter long, real existence to a digital piece of environmental design a game designer probably took 5 minutes to make. And I love the mise en abyme in it, a tribute to a tribute to the 80s. For some reason, Vice City is still fascinating to me. I really owe the game for everything I discovered afterward. I still play it today and shed a tear once in a while when 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet plays, while I am virtually driving in the sunset of Ocean Beach. I think a lot of us felt the same inspiration from the game, long before we gathered and formed the Retrowave community.
Q. Do you see your work rather as a tribute to or as a re-interpretation of the 80s and 90s aesthetic?
A. It is both, in the sense that I try to do
something more 80s than the 80s. It is an intentional cliché, both a tribute
and self-aware of the fantasy it represents. You need to be aware you are being
taken back to a time the author of the piece never experienced. It is as if my
work is stuck in a space-time continuum between the 80s and today. I try to give
it a metaphysical dimension.
Q. If you could go back in time and live in these two decades instead of now, would you do it?
A. I have been asked this question a lot, and after having thought about it I would say I would definitely do it if I could be there with the people I love. I cannot stand the situation we are in now. I cannot stand our self-awareness and guilt, the feeling that the end of the world is near. I really cannot stand the internet and the social networks and the ways in which these change people. I think it’s a disease, even if it is the tool that helped me to discover those other decades.
Q. Which other creatives, books, music or movies inspire you?
A. Eric Weidner, Warakami Vaporwave, Jim Buckels,
Jean-Claude Fahri. Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, Prefab Sprout. Brett Easton Ellis, James Ellroy.
Q. What would you like your work to evoke in the viewer?
A. I would like the viewer to feel immediately transported to a more comforting, touching and overwhelming place in time. I would like my work to give life to a particular memory of their own life and really experience nostalgia in a positive way, like looking in a family photo album.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Nostalgic – Carelessness - Freedom